Saturday, February 22, 2014

Mapping inequality

Above, you can see a map that shows one measure of absolute mobility in the United States. It reveals how many people born into families with low incomes will grow up to have incomes in the top fifth. In essence, how likely is it that a kid born poor will become a self-made millionaire? In San Francisco, you've got about an 11% chance. You'd have better luck in North Dakota or West Texas.

 Below, you can see the zones of economic mobility in the US — they are the lighter areas. Redder areas are zones where children face financial prospects no better (or worse) than what their parents have. Relative mobility, is measured by how likely people are to move up or down the economic ladder relative to their parents. Some areas of the United States, such as Atlanta, have very little social mobility. People born into poor families tend to be poor as adults. In other areas, like Seattle, economic mobility is common and children from poor families have a good chance of growing up to make more money than their parents. The more racially segregated the commuting zone was, the less likely children born there would be upwardly mobile. This was true no matter what racial or ethnic background the children came from. White kids in a segregated area faced just as little chance of upward mobility as kids of color. Another factor correlated with lack of upward mobility was income inequality. Areas where there was a greater disparity between rich and poor had far less mobility, leading the authors to note that the factors that erode the ‘middle classes’ also erode class mobility.

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